Library Stat of the Week #41: Children of Parents with Lower Qualifications Tend to Depend More on Libraries

In the last couple of Library Stat of the Week posts, we have explored data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD PISA) which gives an insight into how much different groups use libraries.

We have seen, already, that students from immigrant backgrounds, and those who do not have a room of their own, or an internet connection at home, tend in most countries to make more use of libraries than others.

In effect, it appears that groups who are facing, or who are at risk of exclusion rely more on the existence of libraries. It follows that any actions that make it harder to access libraries will tend to hurt these groups disproportionately.

This week’s post continues this analysis, and in particular at the question of social mobility, or at least how the level of formal education of parents may affect levels of library use.

This matters, because education can (and arguably should) be a means of helping young people realise their potential, regardless of their parents’ background.

Ensuring that the children of parents with low levels of formal education can succeed at school, and beyond, is therefore a policy priority for any government looking to support the development of its population. The possibility to use libraries to develop reading skills can be a core part of this.

Graph 1: Differences in Library Usage among 15 Year Olds by Level of Education of Parents

Graph 1 provides an overview of the differences in use of libraries between children whose parents with different levels of formal education, looking both at the OECD and the global averages (or at least for all countries covered by the survey). In this graph, a longer bar means a greater difference, with bars pointing up implying that the children of lower educated parents use libraries more than the children of higher-educated parents.

This indicates that in almost all cases, children whose parents have lower formal education qualifications tend to use libraries more than children whose parents have higher formal education qualifications. The greater the gap between qualifications level, the greater the difference in use of libraries.

The highest gaps globally are between the children of parents with no formal education and those with higher education, and within the OECD, between the children of parents with only primary education, and those with higher education.

Graph 2a: Differences in Library Usage (Children of Parents with only Primary Education minus Children of Parents with Higher Education)Graph 2b: Differences in Library Usage (Children of Parents with only Primary Education minus Children of Parents with Higher Education)

Graphs 2a and 2b look in more depth at the difference between library use by students whose parents have higher education, and those whose parents only have primary education. In 29 countries, it is the students with less formally educated parents who use libraries more, while only in 10 is this the other way around. The positive gaps are strongest in the United Kingdom, Israel and Sweden.

Graph 3a: Differences in Library Usage (Children of Parents with only Lower-Secondary Education minus Children of Parents with Higher Education)Graph 3b: Differences in Library Usage (Children of Parents with only Lower-Secondary Education minus Children of Parents with Higher Education)

Graphs 3a and 3b repeat this work, but looking at the differences between the children of parents with only lower secondary education and those with higher education. The gaps here are smaller (as anticipated in Graph 1), but again, 39 countries see the students with lower educated parents using libraries more, while it is only in 20 that it is the other way around. Here, it is in the Slovak Republic and Montenegro that the differences are greatest.

Graph 4: Differences in Library Usage vs Overall Average Reading Scores

Finally, Graph 4 looks to see whether the situation is different according to the overall level of performance on reading. As in previous weeks, once we divide between less and more developed countries, there seems to be little correlation here – in other words, it doesn’t matter so much what the overall level of reading skill is, the value of libraries to children with less well educated parents is relatively constant.

 

As in previous weeks, therefore, the conclusion is that those who are at greater risk of being excluded make more use of libraries. The data here backs up the argument that libraries can be motors of social mobility, helping children from lower-skilled backgrounds to bridge the gap, and develop the skills they need to succeed.

Alternatively put, we can see any decisions that limit access to and use of libraries as potentially being negative for social mobility, given that these will disproportionately affect those from less fortunate backgrounds.

 

Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

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